Friday, June 21, 2024

Toll rates to increase on the Fort Fisher to Southport ferry route

North Carolina's Board of Transportation voted to increase toll rates for the Fort Fisher-Southport ferry system Thursday. The rate increase will be the first toll adjustment to the publicly-owned system since 2003.

WILMINGTON—Riding across the Cape Fear River between Fort Fisher and Southport will soon be a little pricier for vehicles.

The North Carolina Board of Transportation agreed Thursday morning to increase toll rates for vehicles at the Fort Fisher Ferry for the first time in 15 years.

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The toll for vehicles less than 20 feet long will increase from $5 to $7. The cost of vehicles 20 to 40 feet long will increase from $10 to $14; vehicles longer than 40 feet long will see a rate increase from $15 to $28.

Pedestrians, bicyclists motorcycle rates and commuter pass rates will remain the same.

Why raise rates?

Last year, the North Carolina General Assembly published a Ferry Division Efficiency report that breaks down financial losses in the publicly-funded system. 

The North Carolina Ferry System was found to earn the lowest percentage of revenue to cover operating expenditures in North America in 2012-2013, second only to Staten Island’s free ferry service that connects to Manhattan.

During the 2015-2016 fiscal year, the Fort Fisher-Southport ferry system earned $843,889 in revenues to cover $3,313,918 in operating expenses. With toll revenue covering only 25 percent of operating costs, state funding has been required to keep the ferries financially afloat.

Though the report recognizes that purpose of a publicly-owned ferry system is to operate as a public good, it recommended rate increases and reducing off-season crossings for several of its assets. 

Cape Fear Rural Transportation Planning Organization (RPO) has adopted three separate resolutions encouraging North Carolina’s Board of Transporation to adopt a rate increase for the Fort Fisher-Southport system; the first passed in May 2014, the second in May 2016 and the third in August 2017.

Last month, Southport’s Board of Alderman passed a resolution in support of the rate change to cover the ferry system’s capital expenses.

With the North Carolina Board of Transportation’s final stamp of approval Thursday morning, the increased fares are tentatively scheduled to go into effect on or around August 11, according to Allen Serkin, local government services director for the Cape Fear Council of Governments.

All fares collected at the Fort Fisher-Southport system are deposited into an account designated for ferry replacements and improvements in accordance with North Carolina General Statute §136-82.

Those increased funds could eventually contribute toward the purchase of an additional vessel and to construct mooring facilities to accommodate it, as identified by Cape Fear’s RPO funding prioritization meeting Wednesday.

ACT Resolution Southport and Fort Fisher Ferry by Johanna Ferebee on Scribd

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